Santa Clarita City Council candidates discuss housing and affordability at forum

Santa Clarita City Council candidates participate in a forum Monday evening at The Centre. Eddy Martinez/For The Signal.

Thirteen Santa Clarita City Council candidates discussed their views for the city’s future, touching on topics from transportation funding to safety to priorities for residents.

Monday evening’s forum at The Centre, jointly hosted by KHTS AM-1220/98.1 FM, SCVTV and The Signal, touched on a number of issues, but housing and affordability seemed to be a primary concern for the candidates.

The question posed to the hopefuls essentially asked them for strategies on how they could make Santa Clarita more affordable, so the generation of residents who are joining the workforce would be able to continue living and working in Santa Clarita.

Councilman Bill Miranda noted that he was “determined to change that,” acknowledging, as all the candidates did, that the city was part of a countywide housing crisis.

“You talk about affordable housing. I’m talking about workforce housing,” Miranda said, noting the city need to make sure approved developments were creating infrastructure and supporting job growth.

“There’s absolutely nothing worse than a senior who’s outpriced from their apartment,” Councilwoman Marsha McLean said. “The way to alleviate that problem is supply and demand.”

The fact that Santa Clarita should build more to create affordable spaces was shared by most of the candidates; however, most had a slightly different take on how to accomplish that.

“We need to look at a variety of solutions,” said Diane Trautman, one of the challengers. “We need to talk to our developers about starter homes,” she said, as well as shared housing for seniors. “Just building is not going to be enough.”

Sankalp Varma noted that there’s a younger generation, “and they need to figure out their hustle, and what their hustle is.”

The help there has to come from city leadership, he said, noting leaders need to make it so the younger generation “can get better paying jobs here in Santa Clarita, so they can start with a condo and work their way up.”

TimBen Boydston, a challenger who’s previously served on City Council, answered with three words: “More affordable housing.” However, he also followed that up with that it has to be done “very carefully, so you don’t overburden the infrastructure.”

Candidate Jason Gibbs noted “The supply is coming,” referring to a slate of recently approved housing projects for the area, but that’s not enough, he said.

“We need to see the business infrastructure that’s going to be able to provide for that,” he said, noting job development, as opposed to building, would be the crucial factor.

Candidate Matthew Hargett feared there wasn’t a short-term solution, but he did note that there’s been promise in what the city has been able to do with its improvements to the Newhall area, and that “it’s going to take a combination of better, higher paying jobs” in addition to more affordable housing.

Another candidate, Brett Haddock noted the housing gap for California grows by about 500,000 homes each year, which is why more building was needed.

“We need starter homes. We need mixed use and new developments,” Haddock said.

Affordable-housing programs, in addition to rent control, were the solutions suggested when candidate Ken Dean was asked for his solutions, which he hoped would work to eliminate homelessness. He also noted the cost of monthly rents in Santa Clarita, referring to the $1,600-plus monthly rent for a single-bedroom apartment as ludicrous.

Sean Weber sought for economic solutions, but sarcastically reiterated “building more housing” as the solution, noting how many houses have been approved, and pointing to the fact that affordable housing is still unavailable.

“What you build matters,” noted Logan Smith, another City Council hopeful. “We need to build multi-family home dwellings and we need to build responsibly,” Smith said. “And we also need to work on cost controls.”

Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste called for a “balanced approach,” to housing, she said, “so that we’re not just created a massive area of housing near a quality community, and we do need to build transit centers.”

Candidate Sandra Nichols looked toward alternative solutions, noting how Seattle was looking to solve its housing shortage by building large complexes with shared resources like community kitchens.

“We’re losing any kind of community,” Nichols had, lamenting how technology has become a social divide. “Everybody is just on their phones and playing games all the time.”

The election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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